LA Looks To NYC For Its First Pedestrian Plaza

© Bonnie Hulkower
Sunset Triangle Plaza During The Weekly Farmers Market

Los Angeles is a city that sorely needs more open space and parkland, it ranks 17th among major U.S. cities. Park acreage in LA is just 4.2 acres per 1000 residents, significantly lower than the national averages, which range from 6.25 to 10.5 acres per 1000 residents. The LA City Planning Commission had wanted to bring more open space to Los Angeles cheaply and quickly. Los Angeles Planning Commissioner President Bill Roschen had been inspired by how fast and cost effective the construction of public plazas were in New York City’s Times Square and Madison Square Park. So with $25,000 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a design by Rios Clementi Hale Studios and the addition of lime green paint and café chairs, an underutilized street in LA’s Silver Lake district was transformed into a vibrant public plaza.

© Bonnie Hulkower

Sunset Triangle, the new pedestrian plaza, is LA’s first street-to-plaza conversion. The 11,000 square foot plaza is a one year pilot project that is placed over a two lane paved section of Griffith Park Boulevard between Edgecliffe and Maltman. The street is now closed to cars, with access blocked by a row of planters that act as bollards. The street has been painted a bright lime green with yellow-green polka dots. Moveable café tables with sun umbrellas, chairs and a basketball hoop are some of the few amenities that have been added. With these few amenities and a change of color and a change of pace, it is amazing how quickly an intersection of two streets was transformed into a lively neighborhood gathering spot.

The plaza opened on March 4, 2012. In a little over a month it has become a vibrant place for pedestrians, cyclists, coffee-drinkers, basketball players, musicians and people just hanging out. Along the plaza, there is a cafe, a vegan restaurant, a bakery, and twice a week there is a farmers market.

People in the community worked together to create and maintain the space. The plaza is part of the Streets for People (S4P) program, an initiative of the City of L.A. Planning Commission and the L.A. County Department of Public Health. Rios Clementi Hale Studios donated its time, the drought tolerant plants were donated by Monrovia nursery. The moveable bistro tables with umbrellas and chairs are brought in each night by staff from Mornings Nights Café to ensure the street furniture stays clean.

These joint efforts allowed the plaza to be built in months instead of years and for thousands instead of millions of dollars. Involving the local businesses in the maintenance will hopefully increase the sense of pride that residents feel towards the plaza and ensure the project’s success beyond it’s one year pilot span. The L.A. Planning Commission feels that with the pilot process underway, Streets for People can use the Sunset Triangle as a model to create 40 pedestrian plazas a year. This major effort would radically transform a city that has been park poor for too long.

So if you live in or are visiting L.A., stop by Sunset Triangle and welcome the new plaza. Or come by on Wednesday, April 25th at 5:30pm for a tour of this lovely transformed space with the designer, Frank Clementi and Streets for People's Margot Ocañas and Anna Peccianti. Design East of La Brea aka deLab organized the tour, they host a variety of design events in Los Angeles.

Tags: Los Angeles | New York City